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Dunhill’s rural innovation and resilience

Ireland’s rural communities face many challenges but there is growing evidence of successful innovation and regeneration supported by EU funding.

Dunhill’s rural innovation and resilience

Dunhill-Fenor parish, which includes the villages of Boatstrand and Annestown in Co Waterford, is one outstanding example.

The local community has been transformed into a dynamic socioeconomic ecosystem and a model of best practice in bottom-up regeneration.

In 1993, an umbrella social enterprise group was established in the area in response to the loss of local teachers, a declining population, migration to cities and emigration.

At that time, national LEADER partnership programmes, county enterprise boards and community employment (CE) schemes were set up, with EU support, to encourage local communities to generate greater self-reliance and boost economic recovery.

The combination of challenges and supports prompted the Dunhill community to take action, and the results have been terrific.

The Dunhill-Fenor parish population has increased from 1,500 to 2,100, and over 250 jobs have been created in the Dunhill Ecopark since its opening in 2000.

More than 5,000 people have received accredited education in the Dunhill Ecopark Education Centre.

The local motto of ‘there is no limit to what can be achieved by a community working together’ is living up to its promise.

One of the community’s wonderful projects is the Anne Valley Walkway and Wildlife Sanctuary. This is an 11 km return stretch through the valley from Dunhill Village to Annestown, with Dunhill Castle located at mid point.

The walkway was developed by a local group of volunteers, including ten farmers who lease their land in the valley to the local council.

The project involves a tastefully constructed pathway meandering through the valley, taking in a scenic landscape of water, trees and rocks, rich in flora and fauna.

It has become a haven for thousands of visitors including photographers, wildlife and heritage enthusiasts, environmentalists, educationalists, visitors and local families.

The project was funded in two phases by the local EU LEADER partnership company in 2013 and 2018 with matching funds from the community.

The trail is accredited by National Trails Council and maintained and COMMUNITY managed to a very high standard by the volunteers.

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